Valdosta Daily Times

July 29, 2013

Accomplishing a body of work

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Reuben Brooks has goals.

Not just goals, but plans.

Not just plans, but plans upon plans.

“If I’m not busy, I’m going to be lazy,” said Brooks.

In a few weeks, Brooks, a Valdosta State University senior, will return to class, working to finish his degree in exercise physiology.

After that, he wants to get his master’s and then a doctorate.

He’s interested in clinical studies on weight loss and how that can impact what he does now as a trainer.

“I work one on one with people, setting up personalized weight-loss plans, health-conscious plans. I teach my clients to be conscious of healthier options.”

It’s something Brooks has been doing for years — “Not too long, but long enough to know what I’m doing” — and something that came in handy this year when he decided to get into fitness modeling.

“I’ve never kept a single New Year’s Resolution I’ve made.”

He decided this year would be different. Sitting down on Jan. 9, his 22nd birthday, he drew up a short list of goals for the year, including, among other things, setting up his website, bodybybrooks, and entering a fitness modeling competition.

“It was a 12-week transformation. I had to set a goal I was scared of doing so I could overcome my fear.”

It took hard work, of course, but also dedication. Already in good shape from his years of training and working out, Brooks applied the same

principles he used with his clients who came to him for training and weight-loss planning. He adopted a new eating schedule, eating seven small meals a day, regimenting the specific nutritional content towards what he would be doing afterwards.

“Sometimes, the people who come to you just need someone to tell them they can do it, to push them … to let them know they can go to the next level. You’ve got to surround yourself with people who share the same goals. You’ve got to have a support system you can talk to about it.”

Brooks’ support system includes people he’s known for years and people he’s

 just met, people he trains with and people who coach him. Like Ryan Fitch and John Johnson, both bodybuilders whom he’s been training with for years. While their goals are different — bodybuilding is more about adding muscle mass, while fitness modeling aims for more definition and tone — all three of them have a love of working out. And they have a goal they share, to start Lifestyle Nutritional Supplements in the fall, a protein supplement company based out of Valdosta.

The support system also includes local trainer Linda Swenson. He met Swenson almost by accident while he was searching for a side job. Swenson, who has years of experience in fitness modeling, offered to coach him on his posing. He also gets coaching from Michael McKinney, a bodybuilder and gym owner in Panama City, whom he happened to meet when he walked into his gym.

He had his first show on May 18 in Orlando, Fla. Although it was his first, he took home the top prize. Now, he’s training for his next competition and in a couple of weeks, that training will pay off as Brooks heads to Las Vegas to compete in an international fitness modeling competition that will put him against seasoned pros from around the world.

Although he’s confident in his chances — “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I have to visualize myself winning” — Brooks also wants to keep training others and to train a group of athletes for competition under the team name Pro-Made.

“Anyone who wants to compete with Pro-Made can have a support system, just like I do with my friends … I want to be in the gym, helping people … inspiring the people around me.”

Brooks is also working on an e-book called Pro-Made, detailing steps to get into shape while talking about his own history, his mother who ran a health-food store when he was growing up, his father who was diagnosed with diabetes.

And for a guy who spends so much time in the gym, he may not have made the leap to fitness modeling if it hadn’t been for the classroom.

“I had a Keys to Success class with Dr. (James) Muncy at VSU. It really intrigued me and opened my eyes. I put my phone in my pocket, put my laptop down and paid attention.”

Part of what they covered in the class was figuring out what you wanted to do with your life. Muncy advised students to find something they loved doing, something they would do for free, and finding a way to do that as a career. For Brooks, that was working out and helping others find a way to work with their own bodies.

“I’m blessed that I’ve found, at my age, what I really want to do with my life. The earlier you start something, the better you’ll be.”

Of that list he sat down to write in January, he only has one item he hasn’t scratched out yet, to appear in a fitness magazine, but he’s confident it’s coming.

“Especially after the competition in Las Vegas. Maybe not the cover, but I’ll be inside the magazine.”

And so what’s after that for the student/author/trainer/entrepreneur/fitness model?

“I can’t wait to scratch off (that last goal) and set more goals.”